Principles of Military Intelligence to Advance Your Career Success

“A military veteran who can create a systematic competitive intelligence process at their business will become a standout…” 

The term “business intelligence,” or BI, has been around for several years and is commonly used by businesses. Business intelligence involves the company defining measures of success or metrics that reflect how successfully the business is carrying out its financial goals.

Cash flow and debt levels are two very common business intelligence measures. Associated with the business intelligence process is the construction of internal databases and scorecards that track the daily—and in some cases, hourly—progression of how the business is meeting financial measures, quality standards, early identification of customer problems, and fraud and theft prevention.

One of the most significant shortcomings of the BI process is that it is largely internal and does not seek to identify, define, and track external threats to the company’s success. That is where the military’s intelligence process comes in. Military intelligence excels at several key areas where business can learn and benefit.

First, military intelligence specifically focuses on the definition, identification, tracking, and systematic analysis of threats to the military force’s primary and secondary objectives.

This focus on external threats to a company’s mission is something that the current business intelligence process only partially addresses. A manufacturing company’s business intelligence process may track the on-time delivery and quality scores of a key component from a vendor, but they are probably not tracking the development of a new product from a series of competitors.

The second area where military intelligence excels is that a military intelligence report gives the entire organization the same relative perspective on what the threat is, what the threat is working on, and what the threat plans to do.

Ask any of the top ten or so executives in a company what their top three threats are and you may get a similar top threat from everyone. However, the remaining threats will be scattered and different. In order for a business to effectively plan and act against the competition, everyone needs to know what the same top threats are.

The third area military intelligence excels in is systematically and widely disseminating inside the organization with a focus toward action.

How many businesses give the same reports on the competition to the same groups in a regular fashion? When was the last time that sales, marketing, logistics, and customer service all had the same report at the same time and in the same format on their primary competitive threats?

The intelligence process is about understanding, but it is above all about using the understanding to take action so you not only mitigate the competition but become more successful with customers. The combination of the military intelligence process looking at external threats combined with the existing business intelligence process looking at key internal success measures is a powerful combination.

The best way to start is to begin a weekly survey of four to six questions to company personnel who regularly encounter the competition and its customers.

A survey to your company’s sales force made up of a few questions that they can complete in two or three minutes asking about new products, price changes, or new customer acquisition strategies will be a goldmine of useable and up-to-date information when you get it from several front-line employees.

In addition, the use of a simple web search tool such as Google News to collect key information on the competition from public news sources, the web, and social media—which can then be pushed in an email to the company’s leadership, sales, new product development, and operations—is a great time-saver. This process gives everyone in the organization the same view of what is happening and builds a news database on the competition.

A highly ethical focus and a thorough legal review before you begin must be your guideposts as you implement this process.

It is vital that, as you collect information on the competition, you follow the path of good business ethics and complete adherence to the law. The competitive intelligence process must never take any action that would embarrass the company.

The key to building a competitive intelligence process is to start small, build success and consensus, and then expand the process. The use of systematic surveys and analysis of public news items make good business sense. However, “dumpster diving,” the use of listening devices to spy on the competition, or other shady techniques are not methods that a successful business is built upon. Legal review and coordination with your company’s corporate relations department is a must.

A military veteran who can create a systematic competitive intelligence process at their business will become a standout and reach the ears of the highest ranks of the company.

Why? Simply put, because no one else is doing it. When you do well what no one else in business does, you are a champion.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Chad Storlie

Chad Storlie is a retired Lieutenant Colonel with 20-plus years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. Chad is author of two books: "Combat Leader to Corporate Leader" and "Battlefield to Business Success." Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @Combattocorp.

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